Feature, IMEMC Staff, December

The Israeli assault on Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza Friday and Saturday has left hundreds homeless, searching through the rubble for their belongings, and trying to set up temporary shelter to protect them from the cold of winter.

No explanation was given by the Israeli army for the leveling of at least thirty homes, in an assault which left eleven dead and at least 54 wounded (eight critically), mainly by Israeli gunfire. The head of Nasser Hospital in Rafah confirmed that the injured and dead were all unarmed civilians.

The Israeli army has asserted that this attack on civilian neighborhoods is their ‘response’ to homemade shells fired by Hamas militants at the nearby Israeli settlement of Naveh Dkalim in which several of the Israeli colonists were injured.

So far, Palestinians have been unable to bury the dead because Israeli forces were in control of the local cemetery, medics said.

Several houses in Bait Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip and the Tal al-Zatar neighborhood were struck by Apache helicopter gunships late on Sunday. In a separate incident, soldiers shelled several homes in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, earlier on Sunday, moderately wounding one child. The child, identified as Mohammad Abu Shab, sustained a gunshot injury to his stomach.

Military sources warned that since someone has been firing home made shells toward the Israeli town of Sderot (in the southern Negev), the Army would ‘require an operation in the northern Strip, as well.’ Gaza residents note that these attacks are a form of collective punishment, in which whole towns are obliterated for being too close to Israeli settlements.

Residents also fear the expansion of military operations and the destruction of huge areas of Gaza.

The newly homeless have taken shelter in a United Nations-run school in Khan Younis. Homeless Palestinians have not received any aid from humanitarian organizations such as UNRWA and the ICRC, except the $300 handouts offered by the governorate of Khan Younis (Palestinian Authority) to each homeless family.

The army, in its dozens of invasions of Khan Younis – the last, in October 2004, lasting for seventeen days straight, has shown an ongoing pattern of demolishing, shelling and leveling each building which stood in the way of their tanks. Several children have been killed in their homes and schools over the past several months, including Rhagda Adnan Al-Assar, 11, and Rana Syiam, 7, killed just last week while eating supper at home.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, children have the right to proper education, treatment and a peaceful life, but in Khan Younis, as in the rest of occupied Palestine, settlements, military camps, bullets and bombs, are daily dangers for children.

Parents raising their children in Gaza dream about a bright future for their kids, sending them to school with hopes for a better life. But the present-day reality is grim — everyone knows they could be shot at any time, even while they are at home….even while they are sleeping in their beds.

Even though the army has retreated from this particular invasion, it is still there, near the city and its surrounding areas, with military camps and monitoring towers erected in and near every settlement.

Families in Khan Younis refugee camp – already refugees – have been displaced again after military bulldozers and shells destroyed even their refuge, leading residents to wonder if there is any refuge for them anywhere in this world.